The world we live in, as COVID-19 spreads around the world and throughout our county, is not the same world we lived in a year or even a month ago. By the end of March no fewer than 30 states had implemented “stay at home orders” to help flatten the curve and hopefully reduce the number of people infected with the coronavirus.
This forced isolation is having the unintended consequences of a rise in acts of domestic abuse – emotional, mental and physical. Victims of domestic violence are, essentially, trapped in their homes with their abusers in order to protect the public from a health crisis. Staying home can be more dangerous than leaving for some people. The abuse may be exacerbated when the abuser feels out of control or there are financial strains on the household. Many people have already been laid off from work and everyone’s movements are being controlled as to where they go and who they associate with – these are prime examples of not being in control. Being laid off or even unsure of the future of your job can cause financial issues and tensions.
Anyone in an abusive situation needs to have a plan and know that the same safeguards that were there before COVID-19 remain in place and working now. If you are unable or unwilling to leave, set up a phone call with a friend or family member on a regular and scheduled time, daily if possible. If you do not make the call, your contact will know that something is wrong and reach out to authorities. If you know someone that may be in an abusive relationship, reach out to them and be that contact. Social distancing can be dangerously isolating for a victim of abuse.
If you feel you are in immediate risk of harm, you need to leave the situation immediately. Calling 911 is still a resource for any emergency. While the courts are running on skeletal staffs and continuing or converting many cases to phone call pretrials, one of the few types of civil cases that continue to be heard are Civil Protection Orders. You can go to the court and have an emergency hearing if you feel that you or your children are in imminent danger of physical harm.
There are people that are trained to help. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is up and running and can be reached at 1-800-799-7233. In Warren County, the Abuse and Rape Crisis Center continues to provide emergency assistance, day and night, with their shelter and hotline (888-860-4084). Dove House, operated by the Hamilton YMCA in Butler County, also provides 24-hour assistance to victims of abuse, including a shelter and resources. In Hamilton County, Women Helping Women also provides 24-hour assistance through their hotline at (513) 381-5610.
Often leaving the dangerous situation is just the first step. Once a Temporary Protection Order has been ordered, a further hearing will be held to hear from both parties on whether or not to grant a full protection order. If the abuser and victim were married and even had kids, custody and divorce are issues that will be considered. For any of these additional steps, consultation with an attorney is strongly recommended, but first, if your safety and health is at risk by remaining under quarantine, there is help in leaving your current situation.